On NFB Resolution 2016-04, Software Testing, and Apple's Commitment to Accessibility for All
The National Federation of the Blind has done it again.
Earlier this week at its annual convention in Orlando, FL, members of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)—a United States organization of, for, and lead by blind people—passed a resolution calling on Apple to "make nonvisual access a major priority in its new and updated software by improving its testing of new releases to ensure that nonvisual access is not limited or compromised." The resolution further calls on Apple to "work actively to incorporate feedback from testers who use VoiceOver during the beta testing phase of software development to ensure that accessibility for blind individuals is properly and fully addressed."
The full text of the resolution (Resolution 2016-04) reads as follows:
Regarding Apple’s Inadequate Testing of Software Releases
WHEREAS, Apple, Inc. has made VoiceOver, a free and powerful screen-access program, an integral part of many of its products, including the Apple Macintosh, iPhone, iPod Touch, Apple TV, and iPad; and
WHEREAS, when a significant software update for one of these products is released, there are often accessibility bugs that impact the usability of the product by blind users, causing them to lose their productivity or their ability to perform certain job duties when the use of Apple devices is required; and
WHEREAS, recent updates have included a large number of serious, moderate, and minor bugs that have made it difficult or impossible for blind people to perform various tasks such as answering calls, browsing the internet, entering text into forms, or adding individuals to the Contacts Favorites list; and
WHEREAS, for example, after iOS 9.0 was released, some iPhones running VoiceOver occasionally became unresponsive when getting a phone call, and there was no way to choose any option on screen; and
WHEREAS, although this issue was fixed in a new release of iOS, it would not have occurred if Apple had conducted more thorough testing with VoiceOver; and
WHEREAS, another example of inadequate testing by Apple involves VoiceOver failing to render the contents of the screen when a user attempts to add a contact to the Favorites list in the phone app and has multiple contact groups from which to select; and
WHEREAS, because Apple products and its accessibility tools are built by the same company, there is no need to share confidential information with partners that may affect the normal development of the software; and
WHEREAS, we recognize the efforts made by Apple to inform developers about the accessibility features built into Apple products and encourage the company to keep working in that direction; however several accessibility issues still appear with new software releases even when they have been reported during beta testing; and
WHEREAS, it is vital that Apple give priority to addressing bugs that have an impact on accessibility before releasing software updates: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2016, in the City of Orlando, Florida, that this organization call upon Apple to make nonvisual access a major priority in its new and updated software by improving its testing of new releases to ensure that nonvisual access is not limited or compromised; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon Apple to work actively to incorporate feedback from testers who use VoiceOver during the beta testing phase of software development to ensure that accessibility for blind individuals is properly and fully addressed.
If you knew only what was presented in that resolution, you would think that Apple was just another company who gave lipservice to accessibility, didn't really care, and just talked the talk to look good. A lot of other companies do it, after all.
But there is more to the story that the NFB, for whatever reason, doesn't appear to realize. In the course of my work with AppleVis, I've had the opportunity to provide very meaningful feedback directly to accessibility decision-makers at Apple. Everything I've seen suggests that Apple's Accessibility Team is a very dedicated group of professionals who really do want to deliver the best and most accessible products. All of my interactions suggest that accessibility really is a part of Apple's core (pun not intended), and that it isn't simply something talked about in the media every once in a while. Apple gets it, and they continually raise the bar that everyone else is measured by.
The thing is, because of Apple's rather secretive culture, we don't see much of the inner workings or all of the effort that goes into producing software releases and accessibility testing. Because Apple is Apple, we won't see them, for example, attempt to refute the NFB resolution point-by-point. And because Apple doesn't engage in back-and-forth with organizations like the NFB, resolutions like 2016-04 go unchallenged and thus are assumed to be fact by those who aren't better informed.
But just because we don't hear about all of the inner workings of Apple's accessibility strategy or beta testing, that doesn't mean that Apple isn't innovating or that blind users aren't testing the software and providing valuable feedback. Before all major software releases (and some minor releases as well, depending on whether Apple provides a beta), a large and growing number of very dedicated user-testers devote hours of their time to testing and reporting the accessibility bugs they find. We don't hear about the efforts of these people because beta-testers are not allowed to disclose information about the beta software—in particular, what bugs they find and file. Suffice it to say, though, that there are a lot of people working behind the scenes—from many different organizations and walks of life—to help ensure that the Apple software experience is as good as it can be.
So, why do people beta-test? I think, in part, that we beta-test because we testers share a desire for Apple's software releases to be the best possible, and that we see our bug reports being taken seriously by Apple. From one beta to the next, things people report get fixed. Does every single thing we report to Apple get fixed as soon as we report it? No. Do Apple and testers catch every bug before the software goes live? No. But, my experience has been that Apple is very good about prioritizing—and fixing—showstopping bugs; you just don't hear about a lot of these bugs because, in a majority of cases, they are resolved during the beta cycle.
This leads us to one of the bugs mentioned in Resolution 2016-04, a serious bug in early versions of iOS 9 in which, in some situations, it was impossible for a VoiceOver user to answer a phone call. There are a couple things noteworthy about that particular bug, the first of which was that, if memory serves me correctly, this bug was not discovered and reported until the very end of the iOS 9 beta cycle. It was also very difficult to reproduce with any consistency, and some people never even experienced it at all. Such is the nature of beta-testing software; some problems people never experience, while others see them all the time. And if you are one of the ones who doesn't experience a problem—or who experiences it once or twice with no rhyme or reason to link the occurrences to any other meaningful operating circumstances—generating a bug report that says anything other than "It doesn't work!" is very challenging.
I don't think there is anyone who would disagree that, in an ideal world, it would be best if bugs like the phone call bug were found, reported, and fixed before the software was released to the public. But we don't live in an ideal world, and it's worth remembering that sighted people are affected by serious usability bugs from time to time as well. The most recent example of this is the initial release of iOS 9.3.2, which, before it was later resolved, caused some 9.7-inch iPad Pro devices to become unusable. Think that one was bad? Before it was very quickly pulled, iOS 8.0.1 disabled iPhones' cellular capabilities. The point here is not to rehash software releases gone amiss, but that, blind or sighted, high-impact bugs sometimes make it into shipping software. This isn't Apple not giving priority to accessibility bugs, but rather the very nature of using any kind of software.
On a more personal level, I take serious issue with Resolution 2016-04 because the inspiration and supporting details appear to have been drawn heavily from AppleVis' iOS and OS X Accessibility Bug database. When we launched our bug database, we envisioned it as a centralized place for VoiceOver users to find information about and discuss workarounds for accessibility bugs in Apple software. As the discussions of bugs on AppleVis are scattered in various forum topics and blog posts (such is the nature of this kind of site), we wanted a central place where people could come and quickly determine, "What's the status of accessibility bugs in the latest release of iOS and macOS?"
Perhaps naively, we never conceived of a situation where the NFB would come along, take what we genuinely intended as a positive and productive resource for the community, and use it to further their "our way is the only way" agenda. And as one of the creators of the bug database, I am embarrassed and feel at least somewhat responsible for the passage of Resolution 2016-04.
It is at this point that I must pause a moment to acknowledge what I feel are very valuable services and functions that the NFB performs, lest I be seen as yet another person who totally dismisses the value and work of the Federation. In terms of advocating for the wrights of blind Americans in Congress, the NFB instantly and very deservedly comes to mind. I also greatly appreciate the NFB-NEWSLINE® service, KNFBReader, the Federation's advocacy for blind students, their promotion of braille literacy, and their tireless work to ensure equal employment opportunities for blind people. The NFB does some great work, and comments totally dismissing or condemning the Federation fail to recognize that improving the lives of all blind people is a collective effort.
And yet, despite my appreciation for all that the NFB does, these type of resolutions frustrate me on a very deep level. I suppose some of my frustration stems from the fact that this isn't the first time the NFB has passed resolutions critical of Apple:
- In 2014, Resolution 2014-12 was passed, calling on Apple to require that all iOS apps be made accessible. This included stock iOS apps developed by Apple, as well as a desire for a requirement that accessibility would not be lost during an app update.
- In 2013, Resolution 2013-12 was passed, urging Apple to fully expand accessibility to the iWork productivity suite--specifically Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.
- In 2011, Resolution 2011-03 was passed, expressing the organization's "frustration and deep disappointment" with Apple for allowing the release of inaccessible apps on the App Store. The resolution further urged Apple, "in the strongest possible terms," to work with the NFB to develop a set of guidelines that would establish a minimum required level of accessibility for an app.
(It's worth noting that, in September 2009, the NFB presented Apple with a special award for its work making the iPhone accessible. With that said, it does appear as though the NFB's attitude towards Apple has shifted in recent years.)
But as frustrating as it is to see the NFB pass what I believe is yet another anti-Apple resolution (especially when convention sponsors like Google and Microsoft are not also called out for accessibility issues in their products), I've come to the realization that NFB resolutions are only truly important to those inside the Federation. Outside the NFB, life will go on, and the impact of this resolution will probably be minimal. After seeing this a time or two before, I know better now than to think that Apple will be influenced by the NFB's attempts at advocacy, and I know that Apple's commitment to accessibility is stronger than ever before. I know that Apple will continue to take and appreciate constructive feedback about how its software can be improved, and that Apple's commitment to accessibility for all will not be influenced by a few vocal naysayers. Blind and low vision users need not worry that the NFB's resolution—or giving Apple feedback about issues in its products—will somehow result in a de-prioritization of accessibility. Accessibility is at the heart of Apple's ethos, and that isn't going to change.
The other thing I've come to realize is that extremes of any ideology are very rarely a good thing. The NFB methodology is not the only way, and the Federation's views on blindness—and how a blind person should live—are not the only respectable views to hold. In May of this year, I moved to Friedman Place, a supportive living apartment building for adults with visual impairments in Chicago, IL. Here, I have the freedom and support to live the life I want—being as independent as I possibly can be, but having access to assistance if and when I need it. As blind people, I think our community is too small—and the challenges we still have to overcome are too great—to let minor philosophical disagreements get in the way of working toward the things that really matter.
Looking ahead, Apple will soon begin a public beta testing program for iOS 10 and macOS Sierra. The Public Beta Program allows end-users the chance to test pre-release software and provide meaningful feedback directly to Apple. If you have a secondary device—or are an experienced user willing to put up with the quirks of beta software—and have an interest in being part of the solution, one of the best things you can do is beta-test and report your findings to Apple. All VoiceOver-related feedback submitted through Feedback Assistant will be routed to the right people, and rest assured that your reports are being read, taken seriously, and followed-up. Resources aren't infinite, of course. You might report a bug and it still make it into the final release, especially the later on in the beta cycle you report something and the less severe the issue is. But every report helps, and the best way to be part of the solution is to report issues directly to Apple. Telling Apple that something doesn't work—or how something could be improved—won't make Apple less-inclined to support accessibility features, but it might just get your issue fixed and improve the software experience for everyone. So please do join me, and let's work with Apple to make the upcoming releases of iOS 10 and macOS Sierra the best yet for blind and low vision users!
I honestly think this is the result of a very simple view of the world the people at NFB have.
In the smartphone realm, I think Apple is currently top dog. I'm not saying other operating systems are unusable because that is simply not true, but the truth is that most blind people will be using iPhones now.
This is because of Apple's efforts that started in 2009 to make this operating system accessible, something they managed to do quite admirably.
It just seems to me that these efforts have given the NFB the idea they are entitled to 100% accessibility of everything, come hell or high water, to the exclusion of everything else. WHereas (I hate that word after having seen it so often in this resolution) this would be a valid point for a screenreader manufacturer, calling out a mainstream company like this, especially with these hue blanket statements, is in my opinion an ill way of going about this.
On iOS, the bugs that have popped up from time to time in iOS 8, 9 and currently 10 are annoying, but certainly no showstoppers for me. I realize bugs happen and as long as they get fixed in a timely manner I'm happy and go on with my life.
This has generally been so on iOS. The story on Mac OS X, however, is far less rosy.
I have had the displeasure to work with OS X in a productivity environment for a number of months. I was forced to and had no choice in the matter.
The bugs that appear in OS X are definitely showstoppers for me, they limit my productivity and due to VoiceOver being the only screenreader with only one interaction mode, workarounds tend to be quite limited when bugs in that very screenreader appear and remain unfixed for literally years.
I have sold my mac out of frustration and was glad to see the back of it, I truly, truly hope the experience will be better in the next version of OS X. I also really doubt it.
As for why only Apple gets called out on this, and not Microsoft, Google and others? I think this happens because the NFB somehow thinks Apple is more relevant, or perhaps a more low-hanging fruit, no pun intended. They had a go at Windows 10 as well last year, so I guess they don't have a laser focus, but a lot of the resolutions seem to revolve around Apple. Maybe because APple doesn't actually respond or call them out on it, so they can talk big without any consequences? I guess we'll never know.
What may also ad to it is the blatant worship of Apple when i comes to accessibility some people portray. It's almost sickening to see how fanboyish people get, to the point of actually getting very nasty, angry, crying or defensive when people dare to criticize Apple's efforts. Apple's accessibility has never been perfect and I don't think it ever will be, but some people act like the company is a gift from God himself. These people get confused when a bug actually shatters their perfect image of the fruit company and that may also lead to childish, unsophisticated lashing out like tis.
Very well written. Thank you, sir!
Now that u say that blind people should beta test and give feedback I am going to install the public beta on my only iOS device. And what about Amazon? I've heard that they were "fighting" accessibility.
Whereas apple does not sponcer the NFB convension, and Whereas Microsoft and Google do sponcer said convension,and whereas the NFB has yet to chalange the formensioned companies to the same standards they are chalanging, Let it be stated for the recorded, purpose to be documented on this day Wednesday july 6th, 2016, that the NFB is trying to get money from apple, and that said blindness organization has not made any attempt to crush accessibility problems in other operating systems.
Thank you Michael. I for one, used to think that the National Federation of the Blind was a very bad organization all around. Without going into great detail about that, I think the main reason for my thinking this way was all the articles I read about the NFB opposing certain accommodations. But they truly have done some great things. I don't use KNFB Reader since I don't own an i-device, although I did get to try it out one time at a conference which I attended with somebody. I was quite impressed with its functionality. The guy at that booth gave me a Braille brochure to take home. I have been registered with NFB Newsline though for several years, and think it's an excellent service and hope it can continue long into the future. Having said all that though, I think these recent Apple resolutions passed by the NFB are a bit heavy-handed and unfair. I'm only a Mac user, but it truly does seem to me that Apple has top-notch software and hardware engineers who try their best. They may not get it right all the time, but I've been happy with Mac OS development. In addition, I was very happy with their tech support on the few occasions I contacted them.
A very well-written, solid post. Good job, Michael! I take my hot off to thee, good sir.
after reading your post, I have decided to join the beta program! I will join the beta program until I install the final release of mac OS and iOS 10. let's see if it's more responsive and more enhanced then the last release.
despite what some of you seem to have in your heads about apple listening, then please explain to me why it is in 2016, braille support with braille displays has not goten any better as far as writing in contracted grade 2 braille. translations are still just as bad as they were in iOS four, and have not seemed to be fixed, even though many people like jonathan mosen have told apple about this on going issue. it just seems to me as if apple doesn't want to get experts who use braille daily so that things could improve. so in a sense, apple is cheating the deaf blind out of what they need to talk to the outside world, and trust me, I know many deaf blind people who don't update in fear that something wont' work, and they will lose the ability to communicate with the world, and apple just seems to take this we don't care attitude towards them, don't denye it is happening, because it is.
I too, am interrested in the beta testing to better improve apple devicrs for accessibility. How would join?
Your experiences with reporting bugs to Apple differ markedly from mine. Are you enrolled in any of the beta programs and reporting the braille and other issues you're experiencing?
shame shame on NFB.
I'm absolutely appalled.
Michael, is there a way of letting apple know that over half the blind community aren't complaining about this?
Very well said, Michael! I could not have said it any better than what you have said. I think it is time that people spend their time and energy where other OS lack very far behind like Apple. It would be great to see for once that the NFB stand against Google Mobile OS and Microsoft Mobile OS. I also will voice in what Michael have also said. If you are doing any kind of beta testing. Please, report all and any bug you encounter through the proper channel. Talking among people and complaining about it is not going to get to Apple so they can fix it. The more people report these issues during beta is critical and is the time to make that difference. If you are an iOS 10 beta tester and don't have an developer account to properly address the bugs. Please do me a big favor and sign up for the Public Beta Tester instead so that you can be submitting those bugs yourself along with the all of us. It is us that will make this work and not this proposal nonsense. It takes you and the all of us if we want this to be bug free.
Well said indeed. I have signed up for the beta, I am just waiting for the email.
to answer the questions that seem to be going on yes, i beta test all the time. yes, i report bugs, yes, i've beta tested sense iOS six. quite frankly to Michael, to sit here and have the gull to say that the NFB is demanding to apple about this, seriously. how much do you beta test and report bugs and talk to apple. I would be willing to bet right now if i took an honest survey, half would say they get the software to play, and half would say, i don't use braille their for, I don't need it. this bothers me in more ways then one, so if some say I don't use braille their for I don't need it, what you really are saying is sorry, if your deaf blind, I won't be bothered to help improve braille support for you because I can't be bothered to take the time to see if anyone else, especially those who are deaf blind might need that on a daily bases.
Ok no one answered my question. I'm 16 and loving mac and ipad. I want to help.improve it, and show mt TVI macs are for the blind too. So again I am not apart of anything yet, how do you become a beta tester? Where do I go to sign up?
My name is Shelby Craig and I am a huge Apple supporter. I am a member of the NFB, but I don't agree with the resolution that they are passing. It makes it even more surprising to me considering the fact that Apple has set the bar for other companies to use as standards for accessibility. Almost all of the products that I use come from Apple. My highest praisees to Apple for going so far with their accessibility standards and making all apps as usable as they can be. I am interested in becoming a beta tester for new software releases. How can I join the program?
Really well written, Michael!!
Darrell Bowles, your first comment made me laugh, and yet is so true, all at the same time.
Brandon, as much as I'd love to help test for those who are deaf and blind, I can't afford the hardware. I'd imagine many others are in the same situation. It's not that we don't all want to test; it's that we don't have several thousand dollars to drop on a Braille display.
Hi, guys! Michael, that was an excellent post! To everyone wishing to be a beta tester, please keep in mind that if you only have one iOS device it's probably not a good idea to put a beta on it, remember guys beta means still in production, not fully released, so you may run into a mission critical bug that could potentially rhendor your device inoperative. I have a second iOS device, an iPad Minnie 4th generation, so I feel I can confidently run it on there, and if anything happens to it i'll still have my phone as a backup. Ok, with that wwarning out of the way, you can go to http://beta.apple.com, and sign in with your Apple id. You can then sign up for the public beta which will be out sometime later this month. Also, to address Brandon's comments, you do seem to be the only one who is unhappy with them, due to the issues with braille. The only way I know of is to continue submitting bug reports, and if they aren't listening, it may be a case of them not being able to produce a specific bug. Not every bug report is a guarantee of Apple being able to re-produce and fix a bug that someone is experiencing. Every use case is a bit different and so they may not always be able to squash every single bug. Apple's software techs are human beings. Human beings are not perfect, so if you're expecting bug-free software, you're in the wrong game. You can't paint Apple with a broad stroke. Perhaps switching to an android device would be better for you, after all the NFB really seems to dig Android devices.
hi Brandon, well said.
a big applause for the NFB.
NFB, thank you for always fight for our rights.
this should have been done a long time, but better late than never ...
these are our rights that apple has to respect more seriously.
, the same way as regards the sighted people.
long life to NFB.
Firstly, I would like to declare that I am not a member of the NFB.
I think that in order for us to understand this resolution, we need to understand NFB's philosophy on access, and to appreciate what rights NFB strives to attain for the blind. In the 2016 Banquet Speech of the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind delivered by the President of the NFB, we can see in the section that I have quoted below what the NFB works towards. Perhaps this could explain the motive for the writing of Resolution 2016-04:
"Recently I had the opportunity to visit Blindness Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND, Inc.)—a training center affiliated with the National Federation of the Blind. At BLIND, Incorporated, blind individuals are challenged daily to break down their conditioned fears about blindness and to face the fears they will have from pursuing their dreams. During a seminar that I was honored to lead with the students and staff, I was asked to describe my top fear for the National Federation of the Blind. I answered by saying that my greatest fear is that we as blind people will get too comfortable with the progress we have made. Today is the best time in history to be a blind person. We have made tremendous progress. We have more opportunities than at any time before. Some might be tempted to get comfortable with the illusion that we have equality in society. Some might fear that we cannot reach any higher for blind people. Some might have bought into enough of the conditioned fear of blindness to believe that we no longer need the National Federation of the Blind. However, our experience over seventy-six years gives us the perspective to know that we have not reached the top of our climb, and an honest assessment of our lives reveals that we are not yet fully accepted in society without the artificial conditions that others place upon us. The society around us is advancing and our failure to continue our march for independence would result in our steadily losing some of the ground we have gained. My fear for our organization is that our success will condition us to believe that the benchmark is based on how far we have come rather than on where we can go. My fear is that we will get comfortable, we will fail to face the fear that comes from testing the limits, and we will settle for second best."
We can see from this extract that the NFB does not want to "settle for second best", and it can be reasonably be derived that this may have been the intention for the writing and passing of Resolution 2016-04. There are many other examples from the history of the NFB about how they will fight for equality and will not cease until blind people "can compete on equal terms" with sighted people.
The speech in its entirety can be found at https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/convent/banquet-speech-2016.html.
I would like to oppose the view that the National Federation of the Blind only targets Apple with its advocacy efforts. However, I do admit that Apple has been the subject of far more resolutions than has Google, Microsoft and Amazon. In the past, the NFB has worked with Microsoft, Google and Amazon to actively improve the quality of their products. To provide factual evidence for my statement, I refer to this paragraph of the 2016 Presidential Report which was also delivered at the National Convention of the NFB. This paragraph talks about NFB's work with Amazon; however similar examples can be found that relate to NFB's work with Google and Microsoft:
"For more than a decade, we have had a strained relationship with Amazon regarding the accessibility of its products and services. When the New York City Board of Education announced plans to have Amazon create a virtual bookstore for its schools, we knew we had to act. The lack of alt tags in Kindle books, adequate navigation, Braille support, access to footnotes and tables, and other barriers would leave the one thousand blind students and any blind educators in the district at a disadvantage. After successfully and indefinitely delaying the vote to ratify the contract, we met with Amazon and agreed that together we could accomplish something truly innovative. We have been clear and firm that we will not settle for second-best for blind children or blind educators anywhere in this country. Amazon has been clear and firm that they share our point of view, and although they will not get there tomorrow they intend to exceed our expectations. We told Amazon that we intend to hold them accountable, and they responded that they would expect nothing less from the National Federation of the Blind. We now have an agreement with Amazon that provides the roadmap for accessibility improvements in Amazon’s educational products and services and sets an expectation for equality in the future. We will hear from Amazon later in this convention and we have great hope for the accessible educational tools we will engineer together through this new partnership."
The entire text of the 2016 NFB Presidential Report can be found here: https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/convent/presidential-report-201….
Here is a blog post I came across this morning in my twitter feed. I think everyone should give it a read especially those who are trivializing the bug that prevented some from answering phone calls on their devices. The blog can be found at:
I bought myself a HIMS Smart Beetle so, come this beta program, I at least will be able to finally report bugs in Mac OS X with Braille. When it comes to iOS, imho, Apple have gotten it 99% right already. Braille on OS X has a great deal of bugs, however, and I will be giving very detailed, step-by-step bug reports. That is, I think, the key and why most of the bugs I have reported to Apple have gotten fixed fairly quickly. Saying "it doesn't work right" isn't good enough. They have tens of thousands of bug reports to wade through. A simple bug report formula goes like this:
1. What do you see is the problem? What is it doing that it shouldn't, or not doing that you believe it should?
2. What steps will reproduce the bug consistently? This is paramount, as if Apple can't reproduce the problem then they have zero chance of even trying to fix it.
3. How would you resolve it? How should the feature behave, according to Apple's expected behavior?
4. Give hardware specifications. Your machine or product, your Braille display (if applicable), any other products you are using in conjunction with it. Software bugs are tricky and this information is important to narrow down the variables.
A final note: make sure that what you report actually *is* a bug. Just because it doesn't work the way you would expect does not, automatically, make it a problem. Read the documentation to make sure you're simply not expecting the wrong thing from a feature that may work one way in a product you are used to, but does not work that way on an Apple system. Also, use the Feedback Assistant app to report the issues. This, not email@example.com, is where the developers will look first and will make sure your report is filed properly.
If you're using Braille on OS X and are having issues in the current version, please, please don't wait for the macOS Sierra beta to drop before filing your issues. The sooner Apple can receive feedback, the more likely it is they will be able to address it in the final shipping version of macOS Sierra later this year.
Thank you, Michael for writing a thoughtful peace that is significantly more measured and helpful than the comments of some of your colleagues on the previous post about the resolution. I still do not fault the NFB for the resolution because I have used Window-eyes and JAWS, and have never come close to experiencing the frequency of problematic bugs that I have with VO. As I said on the last post, Apple is the screen reader producer for its products , and therefore, the comparison between Apple and V F O is more apt than the comparison between Apple and Microsoft. I don't share the moral disapproval of some on this site regarding Microsoft's choice to let third parties handle screen reading because I favor focusing on the practical outcomes for blind computer users. TJT, I agree that the NFB is generally trying to push harder for continued improvement in the lives of blind people. I am not a member, but I definitely agree with their attitude. Just acceptin what Apple has given us and calling those who ask for more ungrateful or winey is a great recipie for complacency and stalling progress. I think this is true even though I genuinely love what Apple has done for us to the point where it sometimes makes me quite emotional. We can love Apple and hold it to the highest of standards simultaneously. Greg, thanks for the link. That post really resonated with me. Finally, to those of you who react to people criticizing Apple by saying that the critic must be failing to submit proper bug reports, please stop. You don't know who does and does not submit reports, or whether their experiences with Apple's responsiveness has been the same as yours. Mine has been an entirely useless interaction, resulting in several canned answers about how the bug that I reported, which has persisted since iOS 9.0, has been sent to the appropriate team. Once, an Apple employee told me the bug must actually be a problem with my hardware. When I pointed him or her to a post on this site with several people reporting the same bug, they apologized and then gave me the same canned answer. The bug has nhot gone away. But more importantly, if a sighted customer complained about the quality of Apple's software, and someone told them they weren't submitting enough bug reports, they would be indignent. You might respond that we are a small, economically insignificant community, and Apple therefore does not need to treat us as well as its other customers. but like the post Greg linked to says, our livelihoods depend on this stuff. Apple sometimes appears to understand this, and other times it seems not to care. I don't think bringing this up is wrong. I agree that addressing similar issues in other companies would be useful for the NFB to do. But like with Amazon, Microsoft and Google have chosen to interact with the NFB extensively to work on the accessibility of their products. Apple, as it always does, has kept its cards close. That is their choice, If they continue to make that choice, there will probably be more resolutions like this.
Greetings. I just joined the site today. I don't see myself posting often, but I felt led to do so on this thread.
First off, I am an NFB supporter and have been for some years now. I was in favor of this resolution. For those that say the resolution is a result of sponsorship and that Apple was not a sponsor, and as a result the NFB created this resolution, do we really need to go back and count the number of times that the NFB has given feedback to Amazon, Google and Microsoft regarding inaccessible products and software? The NFB has given feedback to Amazon countless times, even having a protest at Amazon HQ regarding accessibility of the Kindle products. There have also been some resolutions regarding accessibility of the Google apps and services in past years. And on Microsoft, and this goes back a ways, but anyone remember the accessibility outcry over Internet Explorer version 4 in 1997? AS I recall, a letter from Jonathan Mosen was reprinted in the Braille Monitor, the NFB’s flagship monthly publication. I also recall other efforts to reach out to Microsoft. Last year, Anne Taylor, formerly of the NFB’s Jernigan Institute, joined Microsoft and I think we are seeing the fruits of that new hire.
I’m not a beta tester for Apple, but I have reported many bugs to them over the years using firstname.lastname@example.org. Like Jonathan, I have reported the issues when entering Braille with a display regarding translation of text, and other accessibility related items. Some they have helped me fix, and others have gone in the pipeline and I assume forwarded to the proper people. I know that these things are put on a list and prioritized, however let me ask those that did not experience the phone answering bug: if you did, would your view on the need to improve Apple’s bug testing process change? Would you think that this was an important and critical bug if your device was rendered useless until you could find a sighted person to assist? My guess is that you would. If I experienced the bug of not being able to answer or hang up phone calls, and having VoiceOver be inoperable no matter what I did, I would definitely be asking questions of how that bug lasted so long without being fixed. I’ve seen some comments this week from people who said that, in short, if someone doesn’t know how to answer their phone or add a contact, then they shouldn’t have an iPhone or need more training. Really? Have we gotten to that point in our community? When reading that someone does not know how to or has trouble when answering their phone or adding a contact, a better response would be to offer help, rather than saying, “Read the manual.” I’ve had the same thought myself, but that thought does not help the person learn to use their phone.
To those that say that the NFB’s voting process is not democratic: when they go to a “Call the Role” vote where each state president says Yes or No when asked, the state president is supposed to go around and ask their members what they think. We don’t know if they did or did not do this. I know this because I recall a resolution regarding Freedom Scientific about 14 years ago that was controversial. That one went to a roll call vote, and my state president circulated through the members and asked us what we thought. Perhaps the voting process could be improved, but I think that it is quite fair.
One more thing: I hope that we are not becoming a group of people who thinks Apple can do no wrong. I’ve read a lot of posts this week on this thread which have had the attitude of, “How dare you say that Apple did something wrong. They made VoiceOver in the first place and should be commended, not torn down.” Yes, they made VoiceOver and have a tremendous commitment to accessibility. One need only look at the WWDC Keynote this year, with the addition of “Time to roll,” for wheelchair Apple Watch users to see that. However, while Apple did create all of these accessibility tools for us, they should be held accountable when those tools fall short or have problems. Of the many people that use NVDA, I’d bet that if issues happen and the screen reader has problems, you would probably report those things. You don’t just sit back and say, “Well, they created NVDA after all and it is the gold standard for everything, therefore it’s perfect.”
I'd just like the NFB to be fare when it comes to making resolutions like this. Apple is only part of the big picture when it comes to these tech companies. Microsoft, Google, and even other companies like wordpress have problems with quality control as well, so it seems kind of short sighted of them to only go after apple. Will beta testing and giving feedback to Apple *really* work? I don't know, but what I do know is that the later versions of iOS 9 work perfectly fine for me. I'm willing to bet that the first version of iOS 10 will have some bugs. the .0 releases always seem to have the most trouble, but we shall see. We're only a drop in the bucket when it comes to Apple's entire user base, remember folks Apple has people using iPhones literally all over the globe. That's a lot of people! So, we are only a small group, but we do deserve to be heard. I just want for it to be done farely.
Damn, that was pretty unecessary of NFB!
Hey Michael, very well written post. Nice job. I find it reprehensible for the NFB to keep targeting Apple. Is Apple perfect, no, but they are so far ahead of Microsoft and Google when it comes to built in accessibility. I'm sorry NFB you cannot keep taking money from Google and Microsoft and not go after them for their poor track record of accessibility. I recently purchased a Nexus device to see how Talk Back compares to VoiceOVer, not even close, the device went back to Amazon by the end of the month. I am not a windows user but from what I hear Narrator with email and web browsing is awful. Web browsing before the latest Talk Back update was a joke. Not sure how anyone can take the NFB seriously considering how hypocritical they are being. I know the NFB does some great work but this is ridiculous. It is almost like Apple is being called out because they are taking money away from Humanware and the other ridiculously overpriced devices designed specifically for people who are blind. The NFB is coming off like an organization with an agenda against Apple, and I guarantee Apple will never ever bat an eye out of anything that comes from the NFB.
To smhy. It sounded like you were squarely placing this so called critics as me being one. First, I would say a majority of those so-called critics are merely more trying to encourage people to help Apple to be aware of these bugs that we find during any beta cycles. Just as like those that are with sight experience the same problem. Apple are constantly fixing problems for those with sight as they are for the visually impaired. There will be issues and the problem comes down is that when you have a limited amount of staff at Apple. They are going to miss things and not get everything. Mostly because of the sheer number of people and hardware is where those holes will appear. We all use our devices in some way differently from each other. Thus, is when beta cycle to the mass can help not words such Michael was talking about. Michael does not agree with the proposal along with many high profile people that blog, podcast, work, and such. We all agree that this something that was not necessary for NFB to pass. The system that is in place is sufficient and yes. I do think that a majority of those on beta do not report the bugs as much they should be doing. The Accessibility Team are a fantastic bunch of people that work so hard in wanting to make this as bug free as they can make. There are so many quirky bugs that may surface that is just very hard to track down and fix. As being on the beta team we can submit logs and snapshots when the problems occurs shich turns around to be very beneficial to the team in able to track down and fix. As a past programmer that I had been in the past. I can attest how some bugs are so hard to nail down. Yes, some people may say it must be you or it’s just your device. That is ashamed and obviously shouldn't be telling you that. I think every bug should be heard and be squashed. However, that would be in the perfect world. This proposal just sounds like to me that Apple is taking more time to fix for the sighted people and not as much for the visually impaired people. Which is totally nonsense. As somebody that works with Apple everyday know that those people on the team get upset every time we have people thinking that they don't care and I'm sure proposal only makes them that more frustrated because it comes across as they aren't doing enough. I come from a business model where team work is the best method to improve on any project. Not taking something on yourself. When a team is put on a project and that would be Apple and the visually impaired community. It helps the both of us as a whole and the final result. So calling people being critical or you say to myself as being a critic. I say not at all. I just say I see the whole picture and what it effects as to everyone. People that are working their butts off at Apple for us and those in the visually community. If I had a $ for every person that I have personally contacted that had mention about a bug if they had reported it. I would be a very rich person today. Being on this team has expose me to a pretty wide field of users in the visually impaired community and I have spoken with a lot of people. I get emails and tweets everyday on problems and bugs. No I can't represent everything nor am I am saying that. I just say that for myself and what I have seen in the past 5 years of being beta testing in what I have seen and heard. Not just for myself. The bottom line is that this proposal was not necessary.
To Wayne Merritt. Yes, please show me the proposal and number of them that the NFB has taken against Google Android and the Microsoft OS 10 for the mobile in the past five years. Now tell me how many have the NFB have taken against Apple in the same period. I personally don't know the answer but would like to see what that results is like. So keep me posted. Thanks.
I’m part of <a href="https://www.nvapple.it/about-us">NVApple</a>, an Italian community of blind people that, simply put, since 2013 plays the same Applevis role but limited to the Italian blind community and without having any direct relationship with Apple. We continuously test pre-release software and report feedback to Apple. The point is that if on iOS they appear to listen to 70% of the received feedback, on the mac the situation is different: saying that they listen to 20% of the received feedback is perhaps a too optimistic estimation. If they were really listening to the received feedback in Mac OS we wouldn’t have a so poor support of PDF documents that we’d better use another OS for reading them, an unacceptable support for Braille displays for a modern screen reader, a far from decent accessibility support in iBooks, a (very) far from perfect VoiceOver support for editing of rich text documents, and yes… Even a so fragile support for accessibility in Webkit/Safari. And please note that I am not mentioning many, many other things just for brevity.
I’ve been reporting feedback about these aspects since the Snow Leopard early days and… Most of the critical issues are still there. Since I happen to be a CS student other than a mac user, I tend to be as technical as possible in my reports, sometimes even reporting issues against system components/frameworks rather than the applications that use them.
In the article you state that Apple is prioritizing things due to limited resources. So perhaps they should revisit the criteria they use to do that or get better at realizing how critical an accessibility issue is. Just an example: in Yosemite Apple introduced a very nasty bug that caused Safari, when coming back to a previously visited page, to position the focus at the top of the page rather than at the point where it was when you left it. I reported that bug two days after the first Yosemite public beta was released, but it took more than a year and the next major OS release for them to fix that. A fix that needed about 10 lines of code to be implemented at least in the way that I hacked my personal webkit based browser that I created for myself to workaround that bug. And during that year the productivity of any blind person dropped significantly… While I could give many more examples of this behavior, I need to illustrate another point and won’t do that once again for brevity.
So let’s suppose for a while that every feedback reported to Apple gets read, processed and addressed to the right people to be acted upon. Now let’s limit the possible feedbacks to issues reported through Apple’s bug reporter, which BTW is not an example of an accessible web application. If a reported issue gets fixed, the corresponding bug should be closed or at least you should get a notice of the possible fix so that you can close it. Well, there are countless times where we had to close reported bugs because the issues were fixed without anyone even caring to leave a note on that bug report to let us know that. So how can we suppose that our bug report was even read by someone? We can’t. And putting things together, the only obvious conclusion is that no, Apple is not listening to *every* feedback as stated in this article.
While someone might think this comment is not constructive, its goal is exactly the opposite. I think that passing a non-technical-facts aware resolution is as dangerous as telling that Apple is doing things properly when it comes to addressing reported accessibility issues. So if anyone wants to further discuss these topics I’d be more than happy to do that. ;)
Just so you know, Apple aren't targeting VoiceOver with their decreased emphasis on the Mac. It's everywhere, VoiceOver and not. I'd say that it's pretty clear they intend to gradually shift everything, and I do mean everything, over to iOS in the long haul. It's the platform they see as their future and, when you look at the numbers and usage, it's hard to argue with that perspective. So yes, I can understand why they're concentrating more on iOS' accessibility bugs. They're concentrating more on iOS in all cases, period.
It doesn't help anyone with a Mac, though. :) From the point of view of Apple's stated commitment to accessibility, it's clearly a failure, since a sighted person wouldn't be exposed to the same difficulties.
I love Apple products and really do believe that Apple have done a great deal for accessibility, but I'm no apologist. This blog post just reads like (yet another) feeble apology. Apple have their own reasons for prioritising which bugs to deal with, and that's the fact of it. I don't appreciate the NFB's pugnacious approach to advocacy either, of course, but I still think they have the right idea in calling Apple to task here. Apple seems to handle accessibility in exactly the same way as they handle security: very, very slowly, in its own sweet time, if at all. Perhaps this resolution has one useful function: it'll drum up some PR, and PR is one thing that will move Apple more quickly. Of course we should all play a part in helping the cause of accessibility along by badgering Apple, and as the article suggests I do so myself (I have a calendar alarm for every Friday for this purpose), but manifestly that is not all that is required. Normal users don't report bugs, and aren't expected to know which software updates are good and which are bad. Apple needs to change its internal processes.
Greetings. Here is what I found regarding resolutions towards Google, Amazon and Microsoft. I took this on a broad perspective to cover any resolutions toward these companies for any of their products, services or software. Also, these resolutions go back to 2009, when Apple was given the award for their accessibility of the iPhone. Links are provided for reading of the full text of the resolutions.
Resolution 2016-13 regarding the Target Corporation's Commitment to Web Accessibility. Okay, it’s not about Apple, Amazon, Google or Microsoft, but it does show the NFB commending a company for implementing accessibility to their services.
View the text at:
Resolution 2015-03 regarding Amazon Whispercast and Kindle eBooks
Resolution 2015-06 regarding Braille access to mobile devices (mentions Android and Windows Phone)
Resolution 2015-17 regarding accessibility of Google Drive and the Google Docs Productivity Suite
View the full text at:
Resolution 2014-04 regarding SharePoint accessibility
Resolution 2014-13 regarding access to cloud storage services, such as Google Drive and others
Resolution 2014-16 regarding access to E-Readers
Resolution 2014-20 regarding remote access to computers
To view the resolutions in full go to:
Resolution 2013-07 regarding declining productivity for blind users of MS Office
Resolution 2013-10 regarding accessibility of Amazon products
Resolution 2013-14 regarding Barnes & Noble Nook Study and Nook Devices; though not specifically about Amazon, this resolution shows that the NFB is concerned with access on all devices.
Resolution 2013-16 regarding inaccessibility of Google services
Resolution 2013-21 regarding access to Windows from Microsoft
View the full text at:
Resolution 2012-02 regarding the US Department of State and Amazon’s Kindle Digital Learning Initiative
Resolution 2012-14 Regarding the Inaccessibility of the Kindle Fire
Resolution 2012-23 Regarding the Inaccessibility of Xbox 360
View the full text at:
Resolution 2011-10 regarding inaccessibility of Google services
View the text at:
Resolution 2010-03 regarding inaccessibility of Google products and services
Resolution 2010-08 regarding Reading Rights for 2010
View the full text at:
Resolution 2009-04 regarding Reading Rights
Resolution 2009-05 regarding access to cloud computing
Resolution 2009-09 regarding access to electronic textbooks; the ACB was mentioned in this particular resolution, referencing an agreement between the two groups regarding access.
View the full text at:
Summary: In looking back over the list, which was over 3 pages, there were around 20 resolutions passed aimed at Microsoft, Google or Amazon. A large number were toward the accessibility of the Amazon Kindle, but there were also resolutions regarding Google services and Microsoft Windows and SharePoint. In short, over the last 7 years there have been now 4 NFB resolutions related to Apple. Compare that to the list above. I did not include resolutions for other companies that were needing improvements to their products, services, software, sites, or apps. The list of companies in this category include: Sony, airline apps, Adobe, taxi cabs and related services, ridesharing apps, and many others. If I can make a suggestion: please do research on these things before saying that the NFB is totally against Apple, and basing that off of several resolutions asking for improvements/enhancements in VoiceOver support and quality testing/reporting. After looking at the list above, if anything, the NFB may be against Amazon. However, earlier this year they developed a partnership with Amazon to help make their products more accessible.
That's what I was trying to tell you. Sighted users are experiencing bugs all over MacOS. They may not be accessibility bugs, but they are still bugs. It's hardly a failure of their commitment, rather it reflects the overall shift in Apple's focus. You're right though, it doesn't help people with a Mac, but it doesn't help them regardless of disabilities or lack there of.
I mean, I knew people here were overstating the disparity in the NFB's focus on Apple as a matter of their general advocacy practices, but man, I should have looked at the resolutions myself... Thanks for the research and the injection of a little fact into this conversation.
Anyway, Thomas, I think you misunderstood my point. I wasn't calling you a critic. I was also not using the word critic in its negative sense. I was talking about the way that blind iOS users sometimes dismiss other blind iOS users who criticize Apple by claiming that the critics aren't submitting proper bug reports.
I just don't understand the point of these resolutions otherthan to beat on there own drumb. Apple hasn't listened to 1 of these demands yet we talk about it like it's the end of the world. Quite frankly these only pertain to the NFB and the reality they lack. I hate that the media picks up on this and assumes I have these feelings towards Apple.
Even if I agreed (and I'd be disinclined to on the basis that the bugs in VoiceOver are disproportionately harmful, whereas bugs in common parts of the system are generally minor and experience much speedier resolutions) my comments would be just as applicable to iOS if the accessibility bugs were sufficiently dire. I just don't think it's responsible of Apple to claim that the Mac is accessible, as it stands, and regardless of my experience with the platform, because it clearly fails the sniff test on several scores (as outlined above). And just to be clear here, I've been using the Mac since 10.5; I'm well aware that there were ups and downs during that entire period, but never such a decline on such a scale, and for what seems to be an unnecessarily long period given the nature of many of the bugs.
Oh, and no, I don't believe that the true answer is Windows and third-party vendors either, as has been suggested. Microsoft and Apple are working to different benchmarks and I think it's disingenuous for people to suggest otherwise. Attributing, say, VFO's success to Microsoft is absurd, obviously. That does not mean that Apple should not be held to the same standard as AT vendors, but it does mean that if I should return to Windows it would be the loss of an ideal. I want people to understand that the Good Apple has done, for whatever reason, is just as important philosophically as it is technically. But that is just my opinion.
I use a Mac and an iPhone every day. These are my primary devices. I have a Windows 10 computer. I have JAWs 17 on the windows computer. To me the Mac and iPhone work better. For goodness sake, the new web browser on windows will not work with it's own screen reader. That isn't even going in to the mail program. There may be bugs with my Mac and iPhone, but at this point, I am more productive with them than with Windows. Five years ago I would not have believed you if you had told me that I would be writing this. I hold Microsoft Professional certifications as well as CompTIA. Granted that my Microsoft certifications are in Windows 2,000 server and professional, but I have used every evolution sense Windows 98. I have stayed up-to-date over the years. Apple just works best for me now. That is what we have to remember, we are all individuals. What works for me may not work for you. My biggest problem with the resolution is the language that is used. I think that it could have been written in a less confrontational manner. We must remember that we live in a sighted world. When we advocate, we are for the most part, teaching people how to see with out using there eyes.
To me, the whole thing's crazy. It's not like sighted individuals haven't been inconvenienced by bugs in Apple software. Take, for example, this article:
Just guessing now, but I'm thinking it might be rather inconvenient & antithetical to productivity to have your device bricked. That's certainly not a bug that involves accessibility. The fact is that there are so many hardware & software configurations out there they can't possibly all be tested. If you write anything more than a trivial program, somewhere along the way there are going to be bugs in it. These kinds of resolutions, IMO, make us look pretty bad, &, I fear, tend to make folks not want to take us seriously. NFB certainly does not speak for me, & I suspect it doesn't speak for a great many blind individuals. So I wish they'd quit saying they speak for the blind. They speak for themselves--nothing more & nothing less. Yes I get annoyed when things aren't accessible. Of course I wish those things wouldn't happen. But these folks have deadlines in place that they feel they need to meet, which usually (though not always) coincide w/ new hardware. We should politely & firmly tell Apple about any accessibility bugs we experience. But I think we need to understand we're not the only ones for whom stuff goes wrong, that programmers are human beings like the rest of us, & as such, make mistakes, most of the time unknowingly, & we need to quit whinging like we're the only ones impacted when those mistakes manifest themselves.
apple was extreamly good at fixing bugs in the first ever public betas of the mac, OS X Mavericks 10.9.2 realise up to Yosemite. they fixt every VoiceOver bug I reported, and even invited to the iOS 8.3 privet beta, and the iCloud for windows privet beta. Apple are a huge company, and the focus shifted to iOS, and the new opperating systems (TVOS, Watch OS. now, with not as many new platforms to work on, apple can, and has more time to devote to MacOS Sierra.
I will agree with many and say that this resolution is quite rediculus. The NFB is a great organization that does a great job of advocating for the blind, but sometimes they go to far. Apple is commended for ccreating products right out of the box. When reporting bugs, be polite and vigolent.
I have gone through the training I love the fact the staff their raise the expectations of the students that go their